Frog study volunteers wanted – Broughton Island Field trip opportunity

Here is a great opportunity for volunteers to join field trips to Broughton Island (North of Newcastle) to help a research project studying the impacts of climate change on frogs and their habitats. The study was started in 1998 and looks at frogs, tadpoles and the changes in their habitats.

 There are five trips between September 2017 and April 2018. Anyone interested should read the attached information and contact Professor Graham Pyke  0408-474-021


Detailed information about the trip:

Broughton Island – Call for volunteers #03- Jul 2017

Thanks to Danie for the information. I suggest anyone who is interested also let us know and see if Atlas friends can travel together.

Dem bones have a story to tell

Recently at a Bermagui U3A beach fossick, one intrepid searcher brought back a decomposing skeleton of a fur seal as his particluar find of the day. In spite of the serious pong for those downwind of this find, Alan Scrymgeour, our leader and guide, was most excited by the treasure and took it home(luckily he and Lyn have a UTE , so it did travel outside!

A month later Alan shows us the skeleton transformed, through loving care and a range of serious chemicals. He now has a pristine skeleton and it’s possible to see his reading of the animal’s death.


Along the ribs, you can clearly see a decisive break, which alan tells us is evidence of a large shark attack – probably a Bull shark or similar.

An interesting and informative find and a nice conclusion to an enlightening search. Thanks again Alan.

Let’s map invasive European Wasps

If you see any of these invasive wasps please record them on NatureMapr so we can see where they are a problem.

Native thynnid wasp
(flower wasp)

European wasp, photo Ali Rodway

Have you noticed the busy activity of wasps in the garden in late summer and autumn? Many of these are harmless and beneficial native wasps, like flower wasps. These perform an important role as pollinators and as biological pest control on the farm or in the garden. Some help control caterpillars which they feed to their larvae. Others lay their eggs in or on a range of host insects. The larvae hatch and eventually kill the host. There are wasps which parasitise leaf-eating scarab insects, pasture grubs and Christmas beetles and whitefly pests of tomatoes and cucumbers. So it’s worth loving your wasps.

Landholders and the Koori Work Crew here in the Bega Valley have recently reported seeing (and feeling the stings of) a less loveable wasp – the European wasp (Vespula germanica). This wasp is neither harmless nor beneficial. It poses a threat to local ecosystems, personal safety, recreational values and rural industries on the far south coast.

For more information read CMN April 2017 newsletter

A rare Wraparound spider

Known as a’wrap around’ spider this cryptic little spider has the curious habit of wrapping around a small branch thus providing it with amazing camouflage. Indigenous to Australia, the spider belongs to the genus Dolophones and seventeen species are known (Wikipedia). We cannot identify the particular species of this spider but it was found on the verandah of Lyn and Alan Scrymgeour’s home at Myrtle Mountain near Wyndham NSW.

Wraparound spider Photo Lyn Scrymgeour

Wraparound spider Photo Lyn Scrymgeour

Sea Slug Census coming to our coast

We have been invited by Prof. Steve Smith, Director of the National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour to co-ordinate a hub for a Sea Slug Census along our coast. Here’s what he said on ABC News today:

Scientists watching southerly migration of tropical sea slugs to chart climate change
ABC Coffs Coast By Helen Merkell
Posted about an hour ago

PHOTO: Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs photographed off Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour, NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs photographed off Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour, NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

Blue and yellow Hypselodoris bennetti sea slugs mating, near Muttonbird Island, Coffs Harbour.

The National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour is looking at whether the southerly migration of tropical sea slugs is an indicator of climate change.

According to researchers, south-east Australia is a recognised global climate hotspot and southward shifts in distribution have already been documented for several species.

Evidence suggests more tropical species heading south

Centre director Professor Steve Smith said colourful sea slugs were now being found up to 1,300 kilometres south of their known range.

“We’re very confident about that because these are such colourful organisms that they’re always seen by divers if they’re around,” he said.
“We know there’s been a documented increase in global seawater temperatures [and] we’re seeing changes in oceanographic conditions in different parts of the world.

“We know there are predictions for major changes in this part of the world.

“Certainly the evidence at the moment is suggesting that we are getting more tropical species moving further south.”

PHOTO: Miamira magnifica sea slug at Woolgoolga Reef, north of Coffs Harbour NSW, 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Miamira magnifica sea slug at Woolgoolga Reef, north of Coffs Harbour NSW, 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

Multi-coloured Miamira magnifica sea slug on the reef off Woolgoolga, north of Coffs Harbour NSW.

Professor Smith said researchers are concerned about whether or not the species in the receiving waters were able to cope with these “invaders”.

“At the moment we don’t really know what the ecological consequences are,” he said.

“We do know high water temperatures can encourage rapid spread of introduced species [and] we’ve got a classic example with sea slugs.

“In three years, they have spread from central Queensland all the way around to Adelaide.”

Professor Smith said migration of sea slugs was not necessarily the ‘canary in the coal mine’ but was an indicator of warming ocean temperatures.

“Sea slugs are one of the most popular marine invertebrates among divers and rock pool ramblers,” he said.

“Because they have this capacity to be very useful indicators of environmental condition, we’re currently putting together a program which works with volunteers to document the distribution of these species.

“So, we can use them as a monitoring tool for climate change and any other environmental change.”

Sea Slug Census harnessing citizen scientists

The Sea Slug Census, which started in Port Stephens, is now running in three centres after Sydney and the Gold Coast joined up.

“We plan to include the South Coast of NSW sometime in March,” Professor Smith said.

“Then we want to extend it across the country to include WA, SA and Victoria with the long-term goal to have an international program.

“It’s incredibly popular with underwater photographers and we use all of that information to document the distribution of the species — there’s a huge variety of them.
“The largest [sea slugs] can be up to 50 centimetres, possibly even bigger. The big Spanish Dancer we get off Coffs Harbour.

“The smallest are so small it’s frustrating. You know they’re there but you can’t see them, so just a few millimetres in size.

“Some are highly cryptic, coloured the same as the habitat they live in [and] then you’ve got the flamboyant ones that are so popular.”

PHOTO: Goniobranchus splendidus, photographed by Professor Steve Smith off Nelson Bay NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

PHOTO: Goniobranchus splendidus, photographed by Professor Steve Smith off Nelson Bay NSW in 2016. (Supplied: Professor Steve Smith)

A white with red spots sea slug Goniobranchus splendidus taken at Nelson Bay, NSW.

Early record of a Peacock spider

Peacock spider behaviour report N.Morrison 1981

Peacock spider behaviour report N.Morrison 1981

We have all got excited about Peacock spiders, having been introduced to them by Stuart Harris who has led surveys on our last two BioBlitzes (a new variety was discovered at last year’s BioBlitz at the Four Winds site)and shared his experiences at our Christmas Celebration.

However, it appears that some people have known about these beautiful beasties much earlier. Norm Morrison shared a report he wrote about thier behaviour, and I have just had the slide he made translated to digital, so we can share it with you.

Here is Norm’s paper and the image he took then

A Peacock spider - photo Norm Morrison 1981

A Peacock spider – photo Norm Morrison 1981

Blue Tide Creatures

On Our trip to Lennards , we found Porpita in a pool & a few days later I found a few more creatures of a Blue tide .

p1050221 Porpita float dark side up so as to blend with the ocean from winged predators & pale side down so as to be camouflaged from predators underneath. dscf2213Velella velella or ‘by the wind sailor

Glaucus atlanticus  [ sea lizard]  & Janthina janthina  [Violet Snail ] also float on the surface [makes its own float as it doesn’t have a sail ] & are predators of the Physalia  [Bluebottles ] which are the most commonly sighted members of a Blue tide.

If anyone has a reasonable picture of a Blue Dragon I would like to include it .They are found on the rock faces underwater ,they also steal functional components from other organisms.dscf2017 img_9480

Creatures of a Blue Tide

Creatures of a Blue Tide

Channel -Billed cuckoo

img_9999img_9992 img_9995

No colour prejudice here !!

This 2 Channel-billed chicks are being reared by a Raven.These huge cuckoos are the largest of all parasitic birds and so has to find large host species with eggs of a similar size  …in this case the raven ,the chicks were already bigger than their carer !

They are a migratory species & breed in Australia in Spring & Summer.

Grand Designs for some ?

I f you look carefully you will see the grand designs of the Red capped Plovers at Mogareeka,normally they have their sandscrape [nest  ] in the middle of the beach with virtually nimg_9597o cover .These have chosen upmarket designs   .

The beach nesting birds will sometimes choose a little vegetation or sticks as cover but don’t seem to have the intricate designs of our bushbirds .like the incredibly beautiful nests made by the Grey Fantail in the featured image.   RedCap plover sandscrapeimg_9609

Baby Pigmy possum

We just had our AGM where we talked about one of Andrew Morrison’s projects which is instaling nestboxes for Pigmy possums in areas like Tura Beach where they are short of hollows for their homes. When she arrived home Mandi Stevenson found this baby on her doorstep. Luckily Alan Scrymgeour knew what to do and collected it to deliver to Wires who know how to care for such lost infants.

baby Pigmy possum  photo Mandi Stevenson

baby Pigmy possum photo Mandi Stevenson

Hopefully it will be released back into the wild when it is old enough to survive on its own.